End Youth Homelessness (EYH) is a national movement to end youth homelessness in the UK. EYH’s annual Sleep Out event will be held for the first time ever in Northern Ireland. Local charity MACS Supporting Children and Young People (MACS) will host the event and are inviting the NI public to sleep out on the 15th November at South 13 in Belfast to raise awareness and funds towards ending youth homelessness.
MACS’ CEO, Mary Ryan describes how, “The Sleep Out doesn’t replicate homelessness but it will give participants a glimpse into how it might feel to sleep rough, or how hard it is to function the next day if you haven’t had access to home comforts”, adding, “It’ll give an insight into how hard it is for young people to deal with the chaos of being homeless whilst trying to stay in education, work and to maintain relationships”.
However, MACS describes the Sleep Out as, “not all hard work. The UK Sleep Outs are notorious for their sense of fun and camaraderie”, MACS describes the Belfast event, saying, “We’d like to thank Square Pit Productions who have kindly donated their S13 venue as an extension of their community outreach program; Hatch Belfast who are providing catering and the Intercultural Community Development Foundation NI are providing a drum circle”. Hinting at celebrity participation, MACS states, “We also have some very special entertainment and guests lined up for the night”.
Referring to a lack of statistics specific to youth homelessness in NI, Mary explains that ‘only a handful of young people are visibly sleeping on the streets, the majority are in temporary accommodation or sofa surfing whilst some homeless non-UK Nationals remain completely hidden’. A recent report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office published a rise in homelessness of 32% over the past five years and Mary admits, “MACS are seeing more and more young people referred to us as homeless or at risk of becoming homeless”.
Each EYH charity works in its own way to meet the needs of local young people working directly with over 26 000 young people who are amongst the most deprived in the UK. Nick Connolly, Managing Director of EYH founding charity Centrepoint states, “I am delighted that MACS have joined the End Youth Homelessness movement. It is vital that vulnerable young people in Northern Ireland have the same opportunities as those across other areas of the UK. MACS has a brilliant track record of helping young people turn their lives around and we are very excited to be working with them.”
MACS operates supported housing in Greater Belfast, Lisburn, Downpatrick, Newry and the County Down area helping 44 vulnerable young adults each night. Mary Ryan explains, “There are multiple reasons behind ‘youth’ homelessness in particular; most commonly relationships with family or friends breaking down, the young person being at risk of violence or abuse if they stay at home, or the violent breakdown of a relationship with a partner”. She specifies some practical challenges vulnerable young people face, “a lot of our young people have experienced the care system or haven’t had a fair deal in life. It can be hard for any young person to secure housing, but if that young person doesn’t have a guarantor, or a deposit or life skills it becomes almost impossible to compete for or maintain private rented accommodation”.
MACS are tackling the problem locally by providing young people with stable housing, education, training and careers support and ensuring they have life skills such as shopping, cooking and being able to budget their money so they can leave MACS housing and support services to forge an independent life. Mary Ryan states ‘We are honoured to join the End Youth Homelessness movement as we share the same core belief that, ‘With the right opportunities and support, homeless young people can turn their lives around, build high aspirations and move on to successful and independent lives”.
End Youth Homelessness is a movement which brings together local charities to tackle the UK-wide issue of youth homelessness on a national scale. It was founded in 2010 by EYH charity Centrepoint, after its patron, HRH the Duke of Cambridge, challenged the charity to end youth homelessness in the UK. MACS invites you to help them tackle youth homelessness locally and funds raised from the nationwide campaign will be used to provide services in Northern Ireland.
Registration for the Sleep Out costs £20 and participants are asked to raise a minimum £100. Please register as an individual, company or a group.
To Register your place visit www.macsni.org
You can donate by texting MACS05 plus the amount you wish to donate to 70070
For example, to donate £5 text the following to 70070: MACS05 £5
For further info email firstname.lastname@example.org or call MACS on 02890 313163